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Culture and Prejudice


Culture and Prejudice. We're in 9A here, and we're looking at a fairly large set of topics right down here. And I've also kind of combined this lecture with prejudice and ethnocentrism and some of these others because they have a lot of overlap and ultimately we are talking about cultural views.

Here's a lesson overview. We'll start with just some vocab words and then look at diversity, cultural development, which is also cultural evolution, stereotypes and prejudice. Definition of culture. The tools and practices of a group of people who share beliefs and carry out their lives through similar routines.

And at a general level culture can be encoded in either materials or symbols. And just one thing to point out here, materials we're definitely talking about tangible things like tools and food. But also technology. So technology is not always tangible. For MCAT purposes, if you see something about culture and technology such as wireless communication, electronic medical records, that would be considered a material element of culture.

Most of culture is kind of in this category, symbols. That would include language, gestures, beliefs, traditions, rituals. Most of what's on this other slide, so here we're looking at the actual elements, the previous slide was just general categories of culture. In sociology you frequently see a list of elements of culture, and I've seen this be as long as nine.

I'm giving you five here. So I don't think you need to memorize these. I think you need to be able to recognize them. In particular, I think this one's important, knowing t hat language is a part of symbolic culture. These others, actually, just share a lot of overlap with one another, but all of these that we're looking at are symbolic culture.

Cultural diversity refers to cultural variations within a group, and in common conversation, we usually talk about diversity is sort of like a catchphrase for minority representation, but for a sociologist, diversity really is a more direct term. It just means variation. So you could have a culturally diverse group that was comprised totally of privileged people.

As long as those people were coming from different cultural backgrounds, it would be considered a diverse group. A subculture is a population subset with unique interests and a lifestyle that sets them slightly apart from the larger culture. A subculture can be small in number but culturally accepted within a larger group, such as, let's say, bird watchers in Belize.

I use this because I know somebody who kind of fits this description. It is a subculture, unique traditions, rituals, beliefs, but part of the larger culture and not very controversial. Or a subculture can be on the margins, which means not really accepted within the larger culture. Example here might be the 1950s Beatniks within the US.

Larger group, much bigger than bird watchers of Belize, the Beatniks, then, were both a subculture, as well as a counterculture. Another term, meaning they operated within society but actually defied dominant cultural values. So with these vocab words I'm setting up juxtapositions because these terms look quite similar just to help you differentiate between them.

Cultural transmission is teaching cultural values or practices to people within your own culture. Cultural transfusion is the spreading of cultural practices from one culture to another. And this kind of makes sense, right? Cuz transfusion we think of something that's a little bit more dilute, a circulating fluid, transmission is more direct.

However, even though this is a more direct definition, it doesn't mean it has to be explicit teaching. It could just be role modeling. And most of cultural transmission happens through role modeling. Assimilation versus multiculturalism. Assimilation is the view or idea that immigrants will eventually conform to the culture where they now live.

Multiculturism is the view that cultures are always blending and exchanging practices, in a dynamic way, it doesn't just go one direction. Cultures influence one another, and for this reason, this idea of assimilation has really fallen out of favor among sociologists and anthropologists. Multiculturalism is a little bit more favored as a way of explaining what happens when two cultures encounter one another or people move from one cultural background to another.

Ethnocentrism is negatively judging cultural practices that differ from your own. Or it could be not necessarily judging another practice, but just seeing one's own culture as a standard against which to judge others or believing that your way is just the normal way. And again, this is something that sociologists and anthropologists try to discourage in favor of relativism or cultural relativism which is assessing or understanding people and practices through their cultural values rather than your own.

And of course that's limited, you can only do it to the degree to which you really understand and other cultures, values. But it's kind of like suspending judgement, suspending belief or disbelief and trying to understand that what seems weird or taboo for your culture might not be for somebody else's. The MCAT wants you to know these terms.

Culture shock is just what you would think it is. We use it in common conversation all the time. It's the sense of anxiety or disorientation that occur when you're immersed in an unfamiliar culture. It doesn't have to be a big culture like a new country. It could just be like going away to college for the first time, or are just in an environment that isn't like your own.

Culture lag has quite a different meaning, although it looks similar to culture shock. It refers to the phenomenon that technology, the material culture, tends to change before cultural values change, the symbolic culture. It takes a while for the values to catch up. And I can see this coming up on the MCAT in terms of something like electronic medical records.

Right, these have been slow to be acquired in the US, and there are a variety of reasons for this, but one reason could be the culture lag. We have the technology, but people don't full embrace it, embrace this mode of storing records yet. Moving on to cultural development, also called cultural evolution. The vast majority of human history has been a history of hunting and gathering.

In these cultural environments, we're looking at small groups of people that are very nomadic. Leadership is based on seniority and extended families. You're really just looking at traveling families, often extremely small. Sometimes hunting, gathering groups were as small as 10, 12 people. Around 10,000 years ago, you have the emergence of both pastoral as well as agrarian societies and cultures.

Pastoral groups are larger in size. They herd livestock, headed usually by chiefs. Agrarian tend to be even larger than pastoral societies, although they emerged about the same time. Here we're looking at villages. Sometimes tens of thousands of people could be in an agrarian village, usually closer to maybe several hundred.

These groups are less nomadic because they're cultivating, farming, and they're headed by usually chiefs or kings. And then around 6,000 years ago we have the emergence of early civilizations. Agriculture helped facilitate the emergence of civilizations. Civilizations are spread over vast regions that you can't just walk from one side to the other.

Another hallmark of early civilizations is you see written languages, with the exception of the Inca. So the Inca is the only early civilization that didn't have a written language to begin with. That's just trivia, you don't need to know that. But I think the written language is worth knowing in reference to early civilizations.

And early civilizations tended to be headed by kings or emperors. In modern societies, we tend to talk about cultures in these larger groups, in terms of nation states, communities with political boundaries or countries, right? France, Germany, Italy were three of the first nation states. Nation states are tightly connected to processes of industrialization. Industrialization began in Britain 250 years ago.

And it included a rise of technology, communication, and organizational complexity, the beginning of institutions that are elaborate in their organization. And today, it's common to see like discussion of countries based on their level of economic development. The United Nations actually kind of keeps tabs on this and puts countries into these three categories.

They update their categories every year or so. On one side of the spectrum we have very economically developed post-industrial countries defined by formal, complex institutions and high levels of consumption. That would be U.S, Japan, most of Europe, Israel, Canada, Australia, New Zealand. Many countries fit here.

Less economically developed or industrializing countries have production systems that include things like factories. They have formal systems of social services but not quite as complex. And most countries in the world would fall in this category. And then under economically developed countries are primarily rural, don't have much in the way of schools and hospitals, and have very little money.

There are many, many countries that fit here, these are just a sampling. Nepal, Somalia, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Haiti, Laos, Rwanda. Switching gears a little bit here, let's talk about stereotypes. A stereotype is an overgeneralization about a group of people. It can be positive in content such as women are caring. Or it could be negative, women are irrational.

And I always do kinda like to point out that it is a little bit ironic that sociologists actually tend to do quite a bit of stereotyping, right? And so does the United Nations apparently. Whenever you're putting people and groups of people into categories of any any type, you're typically seeing at least some level of stereotyping. And stereotyping in and of itself isn't necessarily a bad thing.

It can lead to problems. One thing it can lead to is a self-fulfilling prophecy. So over time, many people begin to act in accordance with the stereotypes others have of them in their group. And that's largely because it's easier to fight, or rather, it's easier to not fight social expectations.

So going back to the women are caring, sometimes there have been documented case studies of women who are in typically male-dominated professional environments find themselves starting to take on the role of the caretaker, the negotiator, arbitrator. They don't even have a personality that lends that way, but the expectations. Other people are looking to them to fulfill that role.

Stereotype threat is an interesting phenomenon. This is when people, once they are made aware of their group membership and then perform a task, find that their performance is suffering. Or they might not find it, but the people who are doing the research study notice this. For instance, using gender again as an example.

If girls are asked to talk about what it's like to be a girl and then just happen to be given a math test by some psychologists, they typically score on average worse than girls who weren't asked to talk about being a girl before taking the test. And that's even though this conversations about being a girl probably didn't even touch upon the issue of math.

Just being made aware of your group membership starts to kind of like pull up all those other stereotypes and associations that we have. Or if elders are asked to reflect on their age before engaging in memory and coordination tasks, they often make more mistakes. Okay, so getting close here, we've got just about five or so terms left. Bias, a tendency to prefer one thing over another to the point of not being objective.

A prejudice is a distinctly negative outlook on a person or situation based on preconceived beliefs. And then discrimination refers to the negative actions that are taken against people, or failing to take positive actions, due to underlying prejudice. So these are more internal games here, processes. Discrimination is the action aspect.

The MCAT wants you to know how cognition and emotion affect prejudice and discrimination. From a cognition perspective, we know that people who think in linear systematic ways are more likely to be prejudiced. And that's really because people who think in linear systematic ways are more likely to stereotype.

They have more organized categorical thinking. And that in and of itself isn't a problem, but it can predisposition somebody to be prejudiced. So people who are very, as they call left brain, organized thinkers, have to be on the lookout for that. Because their brains work in such a way that they naturally tend to jump to conclusions.

And I would put myself in that category. I tend to be kinda linear in my thinking. And so it's something that I myself look out for. I look for my tendencies to stereotype. More predisposed to that than somebody who is maybe a very associative thinker. Just something to be aware of.

Emotions, people experiencing frustration, fatigue, and fear are more likely to act on their prejudices. In other words, more likely to discriminate. And there are several reasons for this. One is what's called the hypothesis of relative deprivation. When people see others with something they want, and they feel blocked from obtaining that desired thing, they're more likely to act out.

Sometimes that acting out can be pro-social, such as social movements or trying to change rules and regulations, or it can be antisocial, which would include violence and vandalism

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